Webinar Recap: Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector

Social media has made an impact in B2B marketing. According to Advertising Age, 58 percent of B2B marketers are increasing their social media spending this year, ranking it fourth among tactics with spending increases. Marketers are not only investing money, they are investing time, with 62 percent using social media for six hours or more each week and 36 percent for 11 or more hours, according to the Social Media Examiner.

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As spending grows and you commit valuable time to social media, this channel’s role becomes increasingly important in your marketing strategy. It’s essential to know how to do social media right. The recent webinar, Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector, shows how social media is being used by your target audience of technical professionals, presents the results from our fourth annual social media usage survey of technical professionals, and offers recommendations on how you can use this data in your social media planning.

Watch the webinar on demand.

Below are some of the highlights of the webinar.

How technical professionals use social media

  • The majority of technical professionals—56 percent—spend less than one hour per week on social media for work-related purposes. That still leaves a sizeable portion of this audience that is on social media for more than an hour each week.
  • For the most part, technical professionals are looking for content on social media: keeping up on company news, new technologies and products. But they’re also looking for you: 41 percent use social media to find new suppliers.
  • Technical professionals of all ages use social media, with some differences. Those under age 35 are more apt to use social media to find a new job, network and seek expertise, while older workers use social media for more traditional purposes such as reading news and product reviews.
  • Overall, technical professionals are passive users of social media. They tend to read and watch rather than post and participate. The most popular social media activity is watching video, with 27 percent watching a video a few times a month, whereas only 14 percent post a comment.

Preferred social media platforms

  • LinkedIn continues to be the most popular social media platform among technical professionals, with 74 percent having an account. Sixty-one percent have a Facebook account and 41 percent have a Google Plus account.
  • LinkedIn usage has shown growth every year for the past four years. Google Plus is also growing. Facebook and Twitter remain flat, but a large portion of technical professionals still use Facebook.
  • LinkedIn: 69 percent use LinkedIn to search for contacts and 47 percent to read product and industry news. Seventy-nine percent belong to at least one group, primarily to read discussions (62 percent). Only 27 percent actually participate.
  • Facebook: With the line between work and personal life continuing to blur, Facebook is not just for personal use. Top work-related activities on Facebook are following businesses and reading/researching content.
  • Twitter: 73 percent follow businesses and 27 percent read/research content.
  • Google Plus: 80 percent follow businesses and 25 percent participate in discussions.
  • Video: Overall, 48 percent of technical professionals use YouTube or other video sharing sites for work, although among 18-34 year olds, the percentage is 58. The most popular types of videos among technical professionals are product demos, how-to videos and training videos.

The value of digital resources

  • Your customers spend an increasing amount of time online using a variety of digital resources, but when researching work-related purchases, social media channels are not nearly as valued as other established digital channels. The top resources have remained consistent over the years: search engines, online catalogs, supplier websites and GlobalSpec.com.
  • Technical professionals report that social media is not more valuable because it is not efficient, too noisy and not reliable. Technical professionals also say it’s hard to find useful content on social media. In addition, about a quarter of workers are blocked from using social media at work; using a mobile device offers a workaround for that problem.
  • A key takeaway is that to be successful with social media you must deliver the content technical professionals want. This will help elevate you above the noise and become more valuable to your target audience.

Recommendations for suppliers

  • It’s worth using social media as a marketing channel; however, don’t rely on it too heavily or divert resources from more effective and established digital channels.
  • To get the most out of your efforts, integrate social media into your overall marketing strategy. Establish a vision, strategy and goals for your social media initiatives.
  • Tie your social media efforts to marketing objectives. Research shows that social media is best used for brand awareness and thought leadership.
  • Get more of your organization involved in spreading your message through social media. Seventy-eight percent of technical professionals say they have never posted news or information about their company on their social networks. Create guidelines and rules for using social media. Make it easy by providing content for your sales, customer service and other colleagues to post.
  • Gain a more in-depth look at social media usage by your target audience and how you can most effectively incorporate social media into your overall marketing efforts.

View the recorded webinar.

Content Marketing Marketing Strategy Social Media Thought Leadership

Content Fuels the Buy Cycle for Engineers

Specification sheets and technical drawings are still very much alive as marketing tools in the industrial sector, but they’re no longer the only content marketers must produce, or even the most important content.

Product specifications and data sheets support the later stages of the industrial buy cycle, when engineers are ready to make their final purchase decisions. Examining spec sheets is like buyers dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to make sure a product they’re considering is the best fit for their needs. In the earlier stages of the buy cycle—needs analysis, research, consideration, evaluation—engineers require a different type of content. They’re looking for best practices, tips, new technologies, and industry trends.

Marketers are investing in content creation
According to the article “Content sparks buying cycle: Marketing to engineers now focuses on digital channels, communities,” which recently appeared in BtoB Magazine, vertical industry marketers are now focusing on new types of content, including thought leadership, community engagement, how-to videos and more. While marketers may already have some of this content available on their websites, they also may need to invest in creating new content and using more channels to distribute it.

Many industrial marketers are already focused on content creation. Results from the IHS GlobalSpec survey Trends in Industrial Marketing 2013 show that 51 percent of industrial marketers are spending more on content creation this year than they did last year. Content-focused videos (58 percent) and webinars (49 percent) are seeing increases as well. In addition, creating and distributing content will play a major role in marketing plans over the next five years, placing second in importance only to focusing on customers.

Creating content is not a simple matter. You need writing, design and production resources, but you also must understand engineers and their buy cycle, and then create content that matches their needs. Engineers don’t like to be marketed to and they don’t like sales pitches. What they want is useful information that is relevant to their jobs and the problems they are trying to solve.

Useful information might be why one technology is superior to another, or why one approach to solving a problem is faster and better than others. But what engineers want are facts and expertise, not hype. The company that produces this type of solid, relevant content will elevate its brand and attract more potential buyers.

Digital is the way to distribute content
Engineers are extremely busy today. They no longer have time for browsing print magazines. Few of them can take time away from the office to attend tradeshows and walk the aisles. Instead, when they have a need for information they immediately go online to find it.

Marketers who distribute their content across multiple digital channels are creating the best opportunities to connect with engineers and other technical professionals. Digital channels such as exhibiting at online industry events and advertising in e-newsletters that are product or technology specific allow marketers to get highly-focused content into the hands of their target audience. Interpower, a manufacturer of power system components, uses this strategy and exhibits regularly at online events. Not only can they connect with their audience, but product specialists and technical experts in the company who might not be available to travel to an in-person event can often be available to answer customer questions online. Read: “How Interpower builds its pipeline through virtual events.”

Tradeshows continue to be a popular traditional channel to distribute content, while websites, online directories, e-mail marketing, and Internet banner advertising are experiencing growth on the digital side. Social media is a good fit for content delivery as well—65 percent of industrial marketers who use social media channels use them to distribute content. Many companies are also building online communities for customers to engage in discussions and answer questions.

We all keep hearing that content is king because it does rule. Make sure you have plans in 2014 to create and distribute good content that will help your customers navigate their buy cycle.

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How do you distribute content to engineers throughout their buy cycle? What tips and ideas about marketing planning would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Content Marketing Industrial Marketing and Sales